Every year at this time I invite people to blog for us about grief and the holidays. Usually, I invite people that have blogged for us before and sometimes I find new voices to invite. A couple of years ago, I invited Elizabeth Neeld to blog for us and she’s been generous enough to gift us with her words ever since. Grief knows no master and while we each grieve differently, we also each grieve the same and many of us feel grief for years following our loss. Elizabeth understands this and her words bring hope for those who find the holiday season daunting. ~ Charity Gallardo, Blog Coordinator.
The holiday season is such a paradox for those of us who are grieving.
Outside are sparkly lights, bright colors, happy sounds. But inside we feel a kind of perpetual night: empty spaces, deep sadness, stark aloneness.
To be honest, it’s going to be a special type of difficult time for us from, say, at least mid-November through the dark winter months of January and perhaps even February. The holidays and the weeks following require every ounce of our energy. And the people we miss every day of the world seem even more absent during these weeks of festivity, traditions, and all the “coming home for the holidays.”
What can we do?
Over the years—with the suicide of a grandfather, the sudden death of a young husband, the loss of parents eight days apart—I’ve learned to do a few things that make life better during this especially difficult time. None of these things that I’ve found that help me are earth-shaking. They are simple actions. But actions that I have discovered are actually doable, even when I have the “holiday blues.”
If any of these simple actions appeal to you, please join me in taking the actions this season. Or perhaps my suggestions will inspire you to think of actions yourself, actions not in my list but actions that appeal to you.
One thing I love to do is buy an amaryllis during the holiday season—the kind that is only a bulb and that says on the box, “Will bloom in 5-6 weeks.” I put this flower-in-waiting in a place that I can see it, knowing how beautiful it is going to be in January, but also knowing that there is a lesson here for me. Something about the importance in my life of a quiet, growing season, a time when a bloom is promised but not yet present, a time when you water and you wait.
Another quiet activity I build into the holiday season is listening to specific music that I choose because I find it beautiful and soothing. I choose a collection of music that I experience as quiet harmony. This morning I was playing Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” and also the Cowboy Junkies’ “Dreaming a Dream of You.” Then next I played Elvis’s “Amazing Grace” and Jeff Major’s beautiful renditions of the Psalms (complete with harp music). This may sound a bit like over-planning; but during the holiday season I think ahead of time of what music makes me feel better and I make sure I know where this music is. Then when I need something beautiful and harmonious, I have the music handy. And I try to listen a lot, to rest and just listen.
I’m sure we could read all sorts of sophisticated explanations about why music helps us; but I’m happy to settle for something quite simple. This is something I learned from one of my early music teachers: that when you press down a key on the piano, you think you are hearing one note, but you are really hearing the key you have pressed plus all its overtones. These overtones—higher and higher sounds on the piano—that you hear at the same time you press the key down produce the note you hear just as all the colors in the spectrum produce the color white you are seeing when you look at a cloud. And what was so amazing that I remember it to this day was my teacher’s assertion that the overtones of a note in music are mathematical, that they occur in specific ratios, that they always occur in the same progression, and that they never change because they are a part of the physical universe. What the ancients called the music of the spheres is related to these set-in-nature harmonics. So, in my amateur understanding of why I feel better after I listen to Barber’s Adagio for Strings is that I’ve heard order. I’ve heard the natural harmonics of notes and overtones. I’ve heard sound which conforms to a progression of ratios set in the universe. And somehow, in listening to this music, I am returned to balance, to internal order, to a sense of more harmony in my own life.
So may I invite you to rearrange your schedule for the next few minutes? Choose some beautiful music. Make a cup of tea. Sit and look at something growing…maybe a tree or an herb in your kitchen or a flower (or bulb) in a pot. Simple actions. But simple actions that can make all the difference.
Blog Post © by Elizabeth Harper Neeld, author of Seven Choices: Finding Daylight After Loss Shatters Your World; Tough Transitions: Navigating Your Way Through Difficult Times; With Eyes Wide Open.
© Iphoto by Elizabeth Harper Neeld.
Love Never Ends image courtesy Free Images.